Muslims hold news conference in support of DC Firefighters
On Thursday, April 5, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a noon news conference outside a Washington, D.C., fire station to show support for Muslim firefighters facing suspension for wishing to wear what they consider to be religiously-mandated beards.
Several Muslim firefighters have been or are being threatened with suspension and termination for refusing to shave their beards. The Washington-based Islamic advocacy group will call on D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few to halt any action to suspend or terminate the firefighters while the issue is being
resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.
“Past cases of this type have clearly demonstrated that a Muslim police officer or firefighter can uphold high standards of professional conduct and public service while maintaining their religious beliefs and identity,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad in a letter to Chief Few. CAIR also offered to mediate a resolution of the issue.
In 1999, a Supreme Court action left intact a lower court ruling supporting the right of Muslim police officers to wear beards. The earlier ruling, issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, said the Newark (N.J.) Police Department’s no-beard policy was discriminatory because it allowed medical but not religious exemptions. (Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Newark)
CAIR assisted in the resolution of beard-related cases with: 1) the Virginia Department of Corrections, 2) the Detroit Fire Department, 3) the Ansonia, Conn., police department, and 4) the New York State Park Police. A number of non-governmental beard cases have also been resolved successfully. The group publishes a booklet, called “An Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” designed to prevent these incidents from occurring.